Retiring library director reviews career
He’s one of the most influential figures in Allen County’s literary life, yet it’s likely few people would recognize Jeff Krull. The soon-to-retire director of the Allen County Public Library, Krull was the leader of the force that led to the massive expansion of the county’s No. 1 tourist destination (really!). We find out what’s on his bookshelves and what’s next for him as we play 20 Questions with Jeff Krull.
1. Is there any place in the main library you haven’t been yet?
I was going to say on the roof, but I have been there. When we were building (the expansion) I was everywhere, even in the sump pits.
2. Should library boards stay independent from local politics?
That’s an emphatic yes. I think it’s very important that libraries have a certain amount of buffer … from what might be a hot-button issue. If you want to have a truly educational institution, you have to reflect all views.
3. We’ve heard that there have been potential candidates for your job who have passed on it because of Indiana’s anti-gay-marriage stance. Is that true?
I don’t really want to (comment) on a rumor. But in that vein, that kind of an image does not encourage the kind of people we want to come to our state. You don’t really want to present a reactionary (image). That kind of stuff hurts Indiana and Fort Wayne, and I wish we’d get past that.
4. What’s your favorite book?
I get a great kick out of (Charles) Dickens. “The Pickwick Papers” is a favorite.
5. What is the most challenging thing about running a library system as large as this?
Maintaining a spirit of teamwork among people who are very talented and intelligent. You need to work hard to keep that spirit. You have to strike a balance (and) listen to people’s views. But ultimately, someone has to make a decision.
6. What are your retirement plans?
I’m looking forward to having the flexibility to do things whenever I feel like it. I have a grandchild in Florida and one in Fort Wayne. Both of those people are very important to me. I don’t have a driving passion like golf, though I do garden.
7. What’s your favorite Dewey Decimal?
In the .000s – those are the generalities. I’m a dabbler, which is not a very complimentary term, but I have a lot of interests.
8. What do you think the future holds for libraries?
I think libraries will continue to be highly regarded and wanted by people. They will continue to be community centers, but they will also move beyond the “book” brand. We think of ourselves as the whole learning experience. You can sit home and download a book, but I firmly believe humans are social creatures and crave human interaction and they can get that at the library.
9. How will libraries stay relevant in this digital world?
We have to make sure our mission is broad enough to encompass learning and creation. I see the library as a supermarket. We can provide access to very sophisticated software. We can put together a resource that’s far beyond (what a person can), such as our 3-D printer at the Georgetown branch.
10. Would you recommend librarianship as a career to young people?
I would but with both eyes open. It’s a changing field. You’re going to have to be adaptable. It may be the role where you started isn’t going to be the same in five or six years.
11. How were you able to overcome the opposition many people had to spending $65 million on the libraries’ expansions?
One key was our message. We had a clear message that this about an investment in our learning. Our community values learning, and you can’t do that without good (facilities). We had a great message and a great strategy.
12. Do you feel vindicated by the results, especially for the downtown?
Absolutely. My opinion was what Fort Wayne needed was to see construction cranes downtown and to see something happening. If you don’t have a center, you don’t have an identity as a city. People need to feel identification with Fort Wayne and be engaged with it. The library project helped that happen.
13. What adjectives describe you?
Laid back. I would hope also supportive and helpful.
14. You likely could have left Fort Wayne to go to bigger library systems elsewhere. Why finish your career here?
It’s just a fabulous institution. For a city this size, it’s beyond what you could expect. You’d have to go to a considerably bigger system, which would have considerably bigger problems. Besides, my wife Alice and I were putting down roots in Fort Wayne, and we liked it here.
15. What qualities should the next director have?
The person should be exactly like me! No, I think in general, in this job and jobs like it, the person needs to be able to be comfortable in different social situations and be the ambassador for the library. Another quality is to be a good planner, to be able to look down the road and try to figure out what the trends are and … put the groundwork in place to meet them.
16. What kind of a student were you?
In high school, I was a good student, but when I got into college, it was a pretty competitive environment and I was a little overwhelmed by the social side. I was not as diligent a student as I should have been.
17. If you could have dinner with a literary character, who would it be?
The perpetual vice president of the Pickwick Club.
18. What is your secret ingredient?
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.
19. What’s your favorite memory?
The firemen’s field days they have in Western New York. The firemen would parade down Old Falls Boulevard (in Buffalo, N.Y.), and they would make chowder in these big, wood-fired kettles.
20. What would you like your legacy to be?
I’d like to be remembered as a person who worked cooperatively with all sorts of people both within and out of the library. I represented and advanced a community treasure that people value and that the library has had a positive effect on people’s lives.
First appeared in the August 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.